Okay, so no one said this to me personally, but I was talking with my mum today, and she told me about a hot debate she observed in a writer's conference about whether or not white people can write from the point of view of a 'minority'. (A.K.A, anyone who isn't white.) Out of the whole judge panel at that conference, there was one white man, and the rest were of several different ethnicity.
Now this opinion that "white people can't write minorities because they can't possibly understand" really pisses me off. It is absolutely unfair to make a statement like that. (In my opinion as a white chick.) How well do you think it would go over if I went up to a black person or someone from the Middle East and said "Oh, you can't write from a white person's perspective because you're a minority and you couldn't POSSIBLY understand what it's like to be white"? I'd probably be labelled a bigot or a racist. But it's okay to tell white folks what characters they can and cannot write? Y'know what, as long as we're portraying that character fairly and not making them one giant stereotype, WHO GIVES A DAMN what ethnicity they are?
And sure, we may not completely understand the details of different cultures and different lifestyles. But a good writer will do their best, and do lots of research. It's impossible to capture the entirety of a culture or certain type of people, because the details vary from person to person. A typical day in one household could be very different from a typical day in another household, even if both are Japanese, Haitian, East Indian, Russian, whatever!
So when I hear someone say "White people can't write about minorities", even if I've never met the person who said it, it just makes me want to prove them wrong even more with a giant "F*ck you" written on my forehead. Part of the appeal of writing is exploring sides of life you're not familiar with, things you don't encounter in everyday life. We write about unfamiliar things because (for the most part) we find them fascinating. Just because I may not know very much about one particular culture, doesn't mean I don't want to learn more.
If I write a character who is black, Asian, Muslim, Native, it's because I have a vision of them, I want to portray their character and how beautiful or unique they are in my mind. I try to keep my stories as diverse as possible because I want to INCLUDE EVERYBODY. So don't tell me who I can and can't write. I have to deal with enough 'white shame' bullsh*t as it is.
But enough of my ranting! I want to know what you guys think: Do you think white people (whether you're white or not) "have the ability" to write about people of other ethnicities? And I mean characters who are more than just cardboard cutouts of their typical stereotype?
As SophieSuffocate pointed out, and rightly so, I think, it isn't fair what we do either way. If we don't write or draw enough diversity, people will whine, but if we try to write from the perspective of another culture or religion, we're risking criticism. What would you have us do, folks? Do you want an art community with diversity or not?